The complications of complications (recent trip to ophthalmologist)

perhaps this is an unpopular subject in these forums. perhaps i’m just avoidant and don’t want to think that complications from diabetes can actually happen to me. I wonder if others have thoughts/experiences to share about this:

i had an annual eye exam last week, and when the doctor was taking longer than usual, with more magnifying thingies, I thought “ok, this isn’t good”. she said there are “changes” since last year, and added “well, I can see more of the diabetes”. who knew you could “see” diabetes? anyhow… then she said she wanted me to see a retinologist in 6 months, rather than wait my usual year to see her again.

I’m freaking…a little. I asked her about intervention, and she said it’s essentially too early. Great. So now it’s a sit-and-wait-for-things-to-get-worse scenario. When I said, “well, what can I do about it now?” she said (and I hate when they say this), “well, you really ought to try to bring down your A1c” which, had she looked, is actually the lowest it’s ever been at 6.1 (coincidentally brought down to this level in the year within which I apparently developed these “changes” in my eye).

I’d love some feedback from others about this and other complications, and how to handle “paying” now for things in the diabetes past. I’ve had diabetes 28-plus years, and she did say some of it is a function of duration of diabetes, but… sadly, when it comes to looking “complications” square in the eye, I do tend to focus on the worst possible scenarios…

Congrats on that great A1C! You must have worked very hard to get there.

Unfortunately, duration of diabetes–even well-controlled diabetes–does contribute to eye damage. Some very lucky people apparently have no signs of retinopathy, but others–me included–have “background” retinopathy. For those of us with diabetes for more than 20 years, we didn’t have all the tools–such as meters and A1C tests–and knowledge–such as DCCT trial results–that exist now. So we gotta give ourselves a break. Complications are not some kind of punishment for our supposedly “bad” behavior. They are the body’s response to living with high blood sugars (and other issues of diabetes), which we can try to control but never “perfect.”

My existing eye damage gives me the motivation to continue to have those annual dilated eye exams to make sure it doesn’t get worse. Yes, I wear glasses. Yes, my sight is worse than it used to be. But no quality-of-life issues so far. It’s a watch-and-see thing.

Surgeries can help people save sight, but they also damage parts of the eye in stopping the leaking vessels, so it’s typically a don’t-go-there-unless-it’s-really-necessary thing. Check out the group about eye complications for some experienced voices. And look at visiting a specialist as a precautionary, smart thing to do, not a punishment.

I’m sure the eye doc comment about your A1C was the comment she makes to most people with diabetes–nearly half of whom have A1Cs over 7%.

The visit to the retinologist may simply be a smart, preventative measure. That specialist can make note of issues and help create a baseline of your eye health. And you can continue your hard work and also be aware of controling things like blood pressure and triglycerides, which also contribute to healthy eyes. Best wishes. Hope to see more of you here on tudiabetes. And I do mean “see.”